Fireworks or no fireworks, 2021 certainly started with a vengeance:
In South Africa and the UK mutations of the Covid virus mean that the pandemic is reaching new heights resulting in a race between the vaccine and transmissibility.
The unthinkable has happened in the US with a widely criticised attack on the democratic process.
And across Europe businesses selling goods or services into the UK or out of the UK into the EU are being confronted with layer upon layer of complexity.
And that’s Week One! It feels that we are in the eye of the storm with survival rather than long-term planning on the minds of politicians and business leaders. And while some would argue its far too early to think about rebuilding, we would flag it starts here.
REBUILDING STARTS HERE
In terms of Board readiness, much heavy lifting has been done in corporate governance since the Financial Crisis a decade ago. There is no easy template but in Fidelio’s assignments we do see a compelling model of Board effectiveness emerging:
The Board providing the support and guidance for an often-exhausted executive to keep the show on the road.
At the same time, the Board keeping an eye on the long-term and horizon scanning to ensure opportunities are not missed nor emergent risks overlooked – preparing for tomorrow.
In 2021 successful companies will need to navigate the short and the long-term simultaneously:
The current crisis has shone a clear spotlight on growing inequalities and demands for fairness are shaping the political and economic sphere. Business cannot insulate itself and the Board and Executive will need to have a clear compass and narrative to satisfy shareholders and stakeholders in the year ahead.
The complexity facing society and business is only increasing. 2020 was tough but the virus and economic pressures remain acute in 2021 and further greater challenges lie ahead as COP26, with its focus on tackling climate change, reminds us.
Chairs are only too aware that the bar has been substantially raised and that accountability will only increase.
SHAPING THE FUTURE
In January Fidelio hosts the 6th in our series of seminars exploring the progress towards Board diversity in the UK and Germany. We will be joined by Dame Alison Carnwath, Audit Committee Chair at BASF SE and Zurich Insurance Group, and Independent Non-Executive Director at BP plc; Tina Kleingarn, Supervisory Board Member at Deutsche Wohnen SE; Dr Hildegard Bison, Board Member at BP Europa SE; Denise Wilson, CEO at Hampton-Alexander Review; and Philine Erfurt Sandhu, Academic Director of the Strategic Competence for Women on Supervisory Boards Certification Programme at the University of Economics and Law Berlin. Diversity of thinking and experience clearly creates a pathway out of the current crisis and is surely an imperative for Chairs and CEOs.
In February Fidelio hosts a webinar underscoring why Boards need to build an understanding of climate change and establish a credible pathway towards Net Zero. With Simon Konsta and Laura Cooke, Partners at Cylde & Co, and Cas Sydorowitz, Global Head of Activism and M&A at Georgeson, we will explore the importance of both providing Board oversight and communicating with integrity.
And in March Fidelio once again hosts our flagship Board learning programme ‘A Seat at the Table’. With practical case studies and insights, we will review and explore how Board Directors prepare themselves for the complexities ahead. Key themes for 2021 include core principles of governance, shareholder and stakeholder expectations; meaningful diversity and inclusion; climate change; and data, technology and the anti-trust battles that lie ahead.
2021 will not be an easy year but it is a year of profound change, where good governance and effective Boards have a powerful role to play. Fidelio would be pleased to support your Board in shaping the future.